A last-minute amendment has overturned key elements of the Hilltops Local Environment Plan even though it was subject to three years of extensive community consultation.
Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group chairman Brad Thorsby has written an urgent email, calling on all Hilltops councillors and the general manager to reconsider the amendments.
The changes specifically removes clauses 7.2 Terrestrial Biodiversity and 7.3 Groundwater Vulnerability, along with the amendment to change the conditions of LEP RU1 and RU4 to include horticulture as being permissible without consent.
If the amendments are allowed to stand, it would mean the Hilltops Council DOES NOT have to consider biodiversity or vulnerability of groundwater when assessing developments.
Brad Thorsby has expressed his "concern and amazement" in a letter urging councillors to rethink their vote - given the significant, well documented climate challenges facing the world.
"The maintenance and growth of terrestrial biodiversity along with the maintenance and improvement of groundwater systems and quality are fundamental to addressing these challenges," he said in the letter.
"It is inconceivable for biodiversity and groundwater not to be addressed as part of the planning and approval process for development throughout the Hilltops Shire.
"This would be at odds with a growing movement across all levels of government (local, state, national and international), to increase accountability for the current and future health of our land and surrounding environments."
The proposed clauses in the draft LEP do not stop development. They merely ensure any developments are reviewed for their effect on biodiversity and ground water - a resource we all need to share.
The community developed LEP draft also ensures landholders have a say over proposed intensive horticulture developments that pop up beside them.
If councillors don't overturn this last minute deal, a neighbour could, for example, develop an intensive horticulture business next door and change what surrounding landholders can do on their properties.
The draft LEP was developed over a number of years through extensive work undertaken by council staff, many dollars spent on consultants, and thorough community consultation.
The last minute amendments, which were not debated or seriously discussed by council, are at odds with the previously inclusive process.
Councillor Marg Roles has submitted a motion to rescind the amendments at the Extraordinary Meeting of Council, which will be live-streamed on Wednesday 8 September 4.30pm.
HMLG Landcare urges all councillors to support the move to overturn this retrograde amendment.